Service Vs. Project
A question arose recently concerning the relationship between Service Management and Project Management. This is a topic of interest to many people since on the surface both approaches seem to be fighting for some of the same work space in organizations. When we go back to the basic definitions of each we can see that the two are not in conflict, rather are very complementary. However, the relationship may not be as many people expect. I have found that the relationship is one of time: short term bursts of creation activities (outputs) inside a larger ongoing management lifecycle (outcomes).
Let us start with the definition of service and service management (according to ITIL®):
Service: A means of delivering value to customers by facilitating outcomes customers want to achieve without the ownership of specific costs and risksBoth of these definitions imply a chain of activities coming together over time to provide an outcome to a customer. These are ongoing ideas that provide both short term and long term benefits to customers. Services are outcome not output based.
Service management (SM): A set of specialized organizational capabilities for providing value to customers in the form of services.
Now we will turn to the definition of project and project management (according to PMBOK®):
Project management: The application of knowledge, skills and techniques to execute projects effectively and efficiently.
These terms imply defined time frames with unique outputs delivered at the end of the time frame. This includes the creation not just software, but services, infrastructure, process, organization and just about any other output. Projects are output not outcome based.
When we put these ideas together we can recognize that a project is a method by which we design and transition a service into existence. Projects are defined bursts of activity (including the development, building, testing and delivery) that result in the creation of services that bring value to the customer. Thus project management is the short term control and guidance of projects that result in long term value-laden services. Once a project completes its objective or goal of creating a service, then the project closes until we need to do the next burst of creation. When a project closes, then the activities associated with project management will end as well.
Since services are lifecycle (repeatable and long term) in nature, service management is an ongoing lifecycle based approach to strategizing, designing, transitioning, operating and improving services to ensure long term, consistent and ongoing value to the customer. Service Management looks not just at the creation aspect of a service, but the entire lifecycle: conception, creation, growth, maturity and even retirement.
By seeing that project work and the discipline of project management resides as one of the many methods that come together inside the overall lifecycle of a service to create value for customers, we find that service management and project management work very well together.